Tuesday, 29 May 2007

My uncle died

My uncle died today. My mother just called to tell me. She'd found out from the nursing home, not from his wife. I haven't shed any tears, and I'm not sure I will. I don't know if my uncle's death had any dignity, but his life sure didn't anymore.

He was diagnosed with cancer of the prostate 15 years ago, around the same time as my stepdad. My stepdad had the surgery, which left him incontinent. My uncle chose the hormone therapy, but ended up incontinent anyway. The cancer never left him completely, and slowly but steadily took over his body. In the end, he had no control over his bodily functions and could barely walk. Then he lost the power of speech. He'd been in a hospice, but the insurance industry being what it is in America, it paid for him to stay for only one week. Then he would have had to pay something like $300 a day. He went home but his wife couldn't care for him. So he went to a nursing home, where they left him lying in his shit for hours. He was in a room by himself with no one to talk to. His wife wouldn't visit him there. My mother thinks this is scandalous. I think she must have felt so guilty about having to put him there that she couldn't bear to see him there.

I didn't have much of a relationship with my uncle when I was younger. It really only blossomed when I moved to the UK and got a computer. He would send me emails. Loads of emails. Jokes, pictures, pro-Bush crap. But he thought of me. And I appreciated that. It's upsetting to think this is how he ended up. I think, and my mother does too, that his death was a blessing. He didn't want to live anymore.

This brings my mother's life and eventual demise into sharper focus. She has started to go downhill, which at 82 is expected. We all live so far away from her. The conversations with my sister always include what we would do with our mother should her husband go first. My sister wants to bring her to Florida to live with her. My aunt wants my mother to live with her. My mother thinks she might go to Florida or might go to a nursing home or might live with her sister. That's if her husband goes first. If she goes first, we know where she's going, but it would create a nightmare in terms of her estate.

It truly is hell when your parents get old. I didn't expect it to be so bad. At least my mother still has her marbles and doesn't have any really bad ailments. The mother of one of my friends has early-stage Alzheimer's. She forgets to eat, forgets where she is, forgets who people are. It's scary to think that's where we'll be one day.


lady macleod said...

I am sorry about your uncle, but I do rather agree with your Mom's point of view. That is why I have a living will and a vow from Q about when to "pull the plug".

I should think your Mum is rather glad she has so many choices should she need a place to go.

It is difficult. Q's grandmother lost both her parents last year. They were in their nineties (deep end of the gene pool) and died within four months of each other which so often happens with couples who are married over fifty years.

It is however a normal part of the cycle isn't it? Have yourself a really good glass of wine friend.

debio said...

As we are promised immortality by the medical profession there is reason to rejoice. But old age can bring many indignities, none of which I would want to endure just to hang on longer.
I try not to dwell on the future and pray that circumstances at the time will present a solution.

DJ Kirkby said...

I am with LM on the living will. We should all have the option to make an informed choice about when to die and with dignity.Of course that doesnt solve the problem with disorders that steal your decision making abilities... I have seen some wonderful nursing homes and some really horrible ones (I report the horrible ones to social services!) I feel sorry for what your Uncle went through and happy for him that he is free. Hope you took LM's advice and got stuck into a lush glass of wine (or 2).

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I'd actually already had the glass of wine when my mother called (there's a time difference of 7 hours). I think my uncle willed his death. I think he must have hated the life he was living, but I like t think he's in a better place now.

jenny said...

I'm very sorry for your uncle and the conditions of which he lived. Hubby's grandma was in hospice not long before she died and when we went to visit, I witness how they "helped" her use the toilet. She needed help to walk and a skinny nurse came in to help (grandma wasnt skinny) and I thought, how was this skinny girl supposed to lift grandma?? Well, sure enough, grandma slipped to the floor and she had to call for 2 male nurses to help. It was all upsetting to see and I was half relieved when she died, knowing she wouldnt have to endure incompetent help anymore.

I like to think she is in a better place, too, along with your uncle and perhaps they are having some nice iced tea together, as we speak. :o) ((HUG))